The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is working on a plan to lease property from interested landowners to provide increased walk-in hunting and fishing access to sportsmen.
At its September meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission heard a presentation on the plan, made possible by a Farm Bill program grant of more than $2.2 million awarded to the Department last month. With more than 95 percent of the land base in Oklahoma under private ownership, the program will open more access to sportsmen looking for places to hunt and fish.
Officials with the Department say the details of lease agreements and plans for the program are in the early stages of development, but special emphasis may be placed on lands in close proximity to populated metro areas as well as on species for which there are few existing public opportunities.
According to Russ Horton, wildlife research supervisor for the Wildlife Department, the agency anticipates making access to new properties available to sportsmen by as early as fall 2016.
“Additional details on this program will be forthcoming as we move through the planning stages,” Horton said.
In other meeting business, the Department presented its Landowner of the Year Award to Kingfisher Co. ranch owner Barry Bollenbach. The award acknowledges outstanding conservation efforts on Oklahoma private lands.
Bollenbach is the owner and operator of Paradise Valley Ranch, a 4,000-acre property west of Hennessey. The mixed grass prairie ranch includes approximately 1,000 acres of cropland, 2,500 acres of native rangeland and 500 acres of introduced grasses. In addition to making the ranch profitable, Bollenbach has focused on improving wildlife habitat for quail and other wildlife as well as providing hunting and fishing opportunity for family and friends.
Habitat improvement efforts at Paradise Valley Ranch have included cedar removal projects, prescribed burning programs, leaving agricultural crops for wildlife and involvement in landowner programs such as the Wildlife Department’s Habitat Improvement Program.
The Commission also heard a slate of presentations:
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.
The next scheduled Commission meeting will be 9 a.m. Nov. 2, 2015, at the Wildlife Department temporary headquarters, NE 36th and Martin Luther King Avenue in Oklahoma City.
# # #